"The right to protest cannot be anytime and everywhere. There may be some spontaneous protests but in case of prolonged dissent or protest, there cannot be continued occupation of public place,” a bench of Justices S K Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari said in its February 9 order.
The Supreme Court has dismissed petitions seeking review of its judgment in the case concerning the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests, reiterating that the Constitutional guarantee of the right to protest comes with certain duties and there cannot be continued occupation of a public place in case of prolonged dissent or protest.
“We have considered the earlier judicial pronouncements and recorded our opinion that the Constitutional scheme comes with a right to protest and express dissent but with an obligation to have certain duties. The right to protest cannot be anytime and everywhere. There may be some spontaneous protests but in case of prolonged dissent or protest, there cannot be continued occupation of public place,” a bench of Justices S K Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari said in its February 9 order.
“We have perused the review petition and record of the civil appeal and are convinced that the order, of which review has been sought, does not suffer from any error apparent warranting its reconsideration,” the bench said, rejecting the review petition.
In its October 7, 2020 judgment in the matter, the SC, while expressing its strong disapproval of the manner in which the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were organised in Shaheen Bagh, had ruled that protests must be carried out “in designated areas alone” and “public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied.. and that too indefinitely”.
“… while appreciating the existence of the right to peaceful protest against a legislation…we have to make it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely,” the bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari had said, while deciding petitions that had sought removal of the protesters for causing traffic jams in areas in and around the national capital.
The bench said that “democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone”.
The Shaheen Bagh protest, it said, “was not even one of protests taking place in an undesignated area, but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters” and added that “we cannot accept the plea of the applicants (who had sought to intervene in the matter in defence of the protesters) that an indeterminable number of people can assemble whenever they choose to protest”.
“We have, thus, no hesitation in concluding that such kind of occupation of public ways, whether at the site in question or anywhere else for protests is not acceptable and the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstructions,” said the bench.
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